They Could, But Won’t

Judah didn’t have to face exile in Babylon. Even after all their many failures, slipping into idolatry, they could have settled into their punishment at God’s hand by serving Babylon quietly. Jeremiah said as much, but the Judean leadership kept trying to play politics with Egypt, playing her off against Babylon.

By the same token, I will tell you that the Democrats in the US can still recover and win the public over to their side. But it won’t happen, for much the same reason that Judah kept rebelling against Babylon: They refuse divine wisdom.

Listen to your heart for a moment. What happens to Christians who don’t pull their conscious awareness up into their heart-minds? This has no effect on their eternal destiny, but they will completely miss out on the heritage of faith in this life. You cannot truly walk with Christ without your heart in ascendancy in your soul. On the other hand, you can walk in your heart’s wisdom without Christ. The difference is that, in the latter case, you miss out on the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. Thus, you can still discern what’s wise according to the moral fabric of the universe, but you won’t really know God and you won’t have that prophetic edge in your planning.

On the one hand, I’ve warned repeatedly that God is brought His wrath on the USA. I’ve gone to great lengths to explain why, but the point here is that a critical element in that path of wrath is that there will be a right-wing backlash. The right-wing instincts will serve as God’s tool, just as Babylon’s conquering lust was God’s tool against Judah. Except that America is not a covenant nation, so we don’t get any of the benefits of covenant protection. So there is a sense in which America as we know it will be destroyed, displaced by something else. It won’t matter whether Americans notice; it will be so. Wise hearts will see it clearly.

But the plan includes executing the wrath of God through the mass movement led by folks with a right-wing orientation. Let’s review just a moment what that means. The American right-wing is moved by “rule of law” or playing by the rules. It’s process-oriented. The left-wing is moved by fairness in terms of outcomes. In both cases the self-conscious orientation has been provoked to a fever pitch, so that most of the activists on both sides are more truculent and harsh than would normally be the case otherwise. People aren’t normally that stupid. So the mood of the nation in terms of the current drift of what shall dominate events is a vengeful rule-of-law.

By “rule of law” we are not referring to existing legal policy, but a broader myth of what law ought to be in a libertarian-leaning Enlightenment philosophy about liberty. Thus, the current majority-in-effect in America has been rubbed raw by legal policy that has turned a tiny minority into a privileged class. There’s nothing inherently unwise about identity politics, but there is something wrong with punishing today’s majority for the sins of their forefathers. It’s this passion for retribution that is entirely foolish. This is what has brought about the current political climate, in which the right-wing is utterly and spitefully deaf to anything the left has to say.

Had the leadership of the Democrats truly intended to rule, they would not have pandered to the whiny by creating a new predatory ruling class. The current established leadership at the DNC doesn’t give a damn about justice; they are race baiting, gender pampering, and looking for any excuse to stir up a false fury and vengeance. That’s where the plunder is. Had they attacked the real root of the problems they care about, their fortunes would have been much better at this point. The issue is winning the hearts and minds of folks without stirring up hatred. It requires backing off the absolutism of those seeking to plunder the existing social order, but suggesting policies that move the majority without implacable demands for specific outcomes.

But it takes a prophetic guidance in the heart to know that the Republicans don’t have to reform right now; they are in control because they have courted this core movement that has suffered too much at the hands of outcomes-based retribution. It wasn’t the wisdom of the Republican Party leadership, but the bulldozing of someone who refuses to play by their customary procedures. In other words, the Republicans harvest the benefit of something they really didn’t want. It remains to be seen where this unsettled context leads, but that is really not critical to what God is doing in His wrath. The bulldozer in the Oval Office is just a focal point of what God is doing, not the center of action. That action is in the field distributed across the country. The true threat to the left is the sheer power and dominance of the majority-in-effect that Democrats refuse to court.

So here is the prophetic point of this: Stop thinking and acting as if the Republicans and the President matter. They are symptoms of God’s wrath, not the substance of what He is doing. If you want to know what’s going on, get your news from the social media. Get a feel for where this mass of very unhappy rigth-wingers are going; their agenda is where God has ordained His wrath. It is not where He has set His blessings. This compares favorably with the situation in Jeremiah’s day. If you can embrace the prophetic warning, you are in a position to let your heart’s wisdom make the most of a bad situation. The right-wing movement is Babylon in ascendance. The left-wing is the slimy deception from Egypt. In due time both of them will be crushed by other forces.

It dosen’t matter if folks have leftist outcomes-based morals or right-wing process-based morals; they can’t keep listening to predatory leadership if they expect to harvest God’s promised blessings. The poltical wrangling matters not; we need a heart-led awareness to do anything that does matter.

Psalm 120

We begin here a collection of 15 psalms, each referred to as a Song of Ascents. That term refers to any pilgrimage to the one and only high place for Israel, Zion. This brings the image of puring oneself, refreshing one’s faith in the Covenant, so as to present a purified life to God in the Temple. These psalms were a hymnbook of those traveling to the Holy City for various ritual celebrations.

Our psalmist first establishes that Jehovah is always paying attention to those who love Him. He does not ignore their distress call. In this particular case, he cries out for deliverance from liars.

Some people are such notorious deceivers that it justifies characterizing them as one big snaking tongue. The psalmist asks what would be the proper recompense for people like that. The answer of course is that the fiery darts of deception always come home to roost in literal arrows and torches, the image of destruction.

With so many liars around him, the psalmist feels like he lives in Meschech, a notoriously obnoxious people that lived in the mountainous terrain in the eastern half of modern Turkey. Then again, it’s like living among the raiders of Kedar, Bedouins living in the Arabian deserts south of Damascus. These were barbaric nations that produced almost nothing of value, but spent most of their energy fighting with their neighbors. Such people had no concept of God’s blessings under the Covenant shalom of divine provision.

On Paedophilia

First, I refer you to the previous post as background. This is also a prophetic message.

Paedophilia is contained in Western Civilization. It starts and ends with the peculiar mythology of Western values. Take away the peculiarities of Western thinking and it’s not a significant issue.

Have you noticed that the Bible never addresses child sexual abuse? It’s not as if there was no one outside the West having sex with children, but that the sin was never elevated as a particular sin worse than other sexual sins. Westerners are hysterical about it, all the while far more likely to engage in it. In the Bible it’s lumped in with other idolatries; it’s not raised as a significant issue because it was a very unlikely temptation. It requires a Western culture to become widespread.

The whole thing rests on a peculiar idolatry. Westerners worship youth; they also have a very heathen approach to human sexuality in general. We have divorced it from the sacred position it held in the Ancient Near East (ANE). We don’t have space here to draw out the full image of ANE attitudes about sex, but they were both far more relaxed and far more restrained. Sex was never treated as a deity, but was typically indulged in service to a deity. Not in the sense of ritualized rigidity in performance, but the act itself was impossible to divorce from ritual meaning.

Thus, one of the first questions in the ANE mind was what a particular sex act signified. As you might expect, conjugal relations in the home with family was very private from outsiders, yet rather frank and open within the household. Every other form of sexual activity was inherently religious in nature. In this, the Hebrew religion was a radical break from the rest. Not that you couldn’t find the same sexual mores outside of Israel, but that the ANE was dominated by a vast depth of pagan religious sex rituals. Sex was a major factor in devotion to the most common pagan deities Israel encountered.

Thus, it was rare to find a prostitute who wasn’t pandering on behalf of some pagan deity. Most particularly was this true of homosexual prostitution. Indeed, virtually all homosexuality was presumed part of heathen idolatry. Given the Hebrew teaching that all pagan religion was devotion to demons, homosexuality was first and foremost a betrayal of Jehovah.

This was not the legalistic nonsense that pervades modern Western imaginations about Hebrew religion, as this imagery arose only with the birth of Judaism. Judaism was a departure from Old Testament religion, a perversion arising from the introduction of Hellenized intellectual traditions. In the minds of true Old Testament believers, sex outside of marriage was a serious threat to shalom. This whole business of sex itself as naughty, the symbolism of the Fall associated with apples and sex, stems from pagan insertions into biblical religion. In the Bible, sex was a gift from God that could be enjoyed or abused like anything else. Adam and Eve enjoyed conjugal relations long before the Fall.

And virtually no one was sexually attracted to children. There was a complete absence of this heathen idolatry of youth; normal life in the ANE didn’t begin before 30. There was no separate period of adolescence. There was a period of childhood that ran up to about age nine, at which point one began preparing for entrance into the Covenant. After that bar Mitzvah, there was a long apprenticeship during which one might not have full adult accountability, but you were expected to be striving for it. This, in contrast to how Western society infantilizes adolescents and pretends that it’s a magical time.

So the whole mess of Western culture makes paedophilia inevitable. It sets up an unbearable tension between the sacredness of childhood and the urge to steal our way back into by bringing adult sexual spoliations. While Western minds can see how much trouble this causes, that trouble is ghastly distorted and swollen out of shape and out of proportion by missing the whole point of why it’s wrong. In God’s eyes, paedophilia is a moral failure that stands entirely upon other, worse moral failures. Our modern Western hysteria about it is a primary provocation that causes it. You cannot propose a moral solution to the problem from within the problem.

Western society has followed the demons far, far from the revelation of God.

On Child Abuse

This is a prophetic message, so it belongs in the pulpit.

God vests men and women with various types of prophetic gifts, callings and offices as part of the redemptive nature of revelation. That purpose includes a call to repentance, to provoke a sense of conviction about our common sinful nature and to offer the assurance of mercy. It points to a path that takes us out of sin.

There is no objective definition of child abuse. It’s the arrogance of human intellect to assert that such a definition could and should be. Nonetheless, we know that there is such a thing as child abuse in God’s eyes on the simple grounds that there is sin and abusive behavior among humans perpetrated against other humans. The whole concept of Law Covenant as revelation speaks of the need to mitigate sinful nature by erecting boundaries and enforcing them. The primary objective of Law is offering some framework for bringing social stability. While we might like to change human sinful nature, Law cannot do that. Such change requires a miracle of God and none of us is Him.

So we must first acknowledge that the question of what constitutes “child abuse” is culturally derived, and highly contextual. The greatest single problem is both the cause of child abuse, and the aggravation of such abuse through the actions of government. While some things people do are abusive to children, everything the secular state does to children is harmful and abusive. The state is inherently evil.

So the real problem here is the secular state. More to the point, the whole problem of child abuse rests on the mere existence of secular state government. The state is the proximate cause, the primary culprit. Whatever solution we might propose cannot involve the presence of the intrusive state, because the state can do nothing right.

What makes the state so wrong? It rests on a mythology that is drawn from the two sources of Germanic tribal culture and Classical epistemology. Western Civilization is an Antichrist; it rejects all of the fundamental requirements of God’s revelation, particularly in terms of Law. To walk with Christ requires you reject Western civilization and everything born from it. (Please don’t get lost here; it’s not the material products of the West, but the social condition itself that is wrong.)

When understood from the proper approach, the requirements of Noah’s Covenant is that man institute what he failed to do in the Garden of Eden: To get off his lazy ass and govern his family. While there is a burden on females according to their own nature, the failure of males takes center stage here because this is a man’s job. Translating the contextual meaning of Genesis 9 and the Rainbow Covenant means prodding men to take up the shepherd’s staff in their households and stay alert against moral threats.

Adam’s sin in the Garden was letting Eve choose something she was not equipped to evaluate. We are led to assume that Adam was aware of the discussion between Eve and Satan, and that Satan was not their friend. He also knew that Eve, by her feminine nature, was not wired to handle temptation of that nature. It was his duty before God to protect her from that, and he failed. The redemptive purpose of the Law is to correct his laziness and hold him responsible for asserting moral boundaries.

He starts building those boundaries in his own household. As that household grows, he maintains those boundaries. That means he must come before God on a regular basis and make sure he rightly understands what constitutes a threat to moral stability and what is the proper mitigation. At the time the New Testament was written, verses like Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:14 & 3:16 refer to the existing Old Testament. We are obliged to parse the Law of Moses through our heart-minds and grasp what it says about human nature and how to mitigate the Fall. All of it presumes that mankind is governed by his own kin, whether blood kin or covenant kin, but that no one else has moral standing to govern human daily affairs.

The family-clan-tribal elder has a vested interest in the moral outcomes. He can have shalom in proportion to the wisdom of his boundaries and enforcement. But his whole life on this earth rests on keeping things stable on moral terms, not mere material terms. He has to recognize what constitutes a threat to that stability as a personal threat, too, and his actions have to match the threat. So in Noah’s Covenant we have mention of executing murderers, not because life is so precious, but shalom is precious and murder threatens the shepherd’s treasure in the people. Their shalom was his. The provisions of Moses’ Law calling for execution reflect a very wise evaluation on those moral terms in the context of that people, that time, that land.

Aside from Rome, that beastly predecessor of the modern secular state, no one in that part of the world would dream of interfering in family government. Even Rome recognized tribal national identity and some limited peculiarities from one to the next. A Judean was a Judean all over the Roman Empire, and fell under Judean law for some purposes. Rome authorized armed enforcement of Judean law on Judeans in all parts of the empire. That’s because most of the rest of the world outside of Rome viewed the moral obligations within and between tribes/nations as preeminent in all human relations. There were ancient protocols for all this. The New Testament fusses at Rome for seizing control of things that rightly belong to the tribe, something no previous conquering empire dared to do. (You should study ancient sovereign-vassal treaties for more details.)

The modern secular state lumps disparate nations together based on mere geographical boundaries, a mistake that arises from heathen German thinking. Western feudalism is turf-oriented. Thus, everyone inside the geographical boundary is governed wholly by the whims of the vested authorities, and cultural/tribal differences are ignored where inconvenient to the state’s interests. And we surely grasp that the state’s interests are materialistic in nature; that’s fundamental to Western identity in the first place. All subjects under the state are regarded individually as assets of the state — quite literally, property of the state. And the state’s “ownership” is irredeemably materialistic and immoral in nature. Everything is an economic asset, and that goes a long way to explaining law and the courts in a Western democracy.

The ancient man who was born after Noah understood instinctively that his greatest treasure was his family. It was written into the assumptions of his world view. It was presumed inherently immoral to regard family members as mere conveniences and assets. They were his, but he was nothing without them. So long as a man proceeds on that assumption, his actions would be hard to classify as “abusive” as he sought to establish moral boundaries for them. The rest of that clan could fuss about his choices, but in the final analysis, Noah demands that the man make a choice and enforce it.

In a secular and cosmopolitan society, the ultimate abuse comes from the arrogance of folks assuming that their personal cultural values are proper and fit for all those they encounter. We see today secular states using the excuse of “community values” to oppress folks who behave differently based on a different cultural orientation. The result is an unforgivable tyranny and oppression, because it always includes a host of demands that intrude on God’s mandate. Secular civil law is inherently blasphemous; where it seems some legal measure overlaps Noah’s Law, it’s entirely random.

So whatever the secular state decides to do in terms of law enforcement will tend to fail most miserably when it comes to domestic matters. It might seem to work in practical terms, but it remains a moral failure. Those who wield political dominance in the local community will spitefully slap down any alternative viewpoint without bothering to first gain a covenant compliance. There is zero moral authority behind their decisions. But they blithely seize control of civil enforcement power, cowardly hiding behind hired thugs instead of executing enforcement by their own hands of moral authority, and they destroy the moral social stability that God commanded.

Thus, the major logical flaw here is that the state claims to be a victim of certain “criminal” acts when it has absolutely not moral standing at all. With things like child abuse, the state has no standing because it is not a victim. Ideally the folks in the community would have some standing, but they forfeit that standing by refusing to establish a proper covenant. So when it comes to the question of whether a child has been abused, only the family household in which that child lives has any standing as victims. In particular, the presumed shepherd of the family has suffered a loss by the abuse, since it is his treasure we are talking about here.

The same goes for abortion, and marriage disputes, etc. The whole range of family law in Western Civilization as a whole is blasphemous. May God have mercy on those few of us who see that, because His wrath rests on the West.

The Nuclear Option of Faith

When your heart belongs wholly to Christ, and you strive to walk by that heart of faith, you will inevitably encounter resistance from a sinful world. We must always keep before us that our real enemy is Satan and his demons. It is grammatically appropriate in English to capitalize that as a title: our Enemy. He’s the only enemy that really matters. Our difficulty in this life is chiefly humans who serve his purposes, knowingly or not (Ephesians 6:10-20).

We would prefer people to repent from serving our Enemy’s purposes, and to escape his dominance in their lives. That’s our hope, even as we keep in the mind the warning of our Lord that most people will not repent. Indeed, we should be quite happy just to get them off our backs, most of the time. There is that sense of dominion from God that says: As long as they aren’t hindering my mission, they aren’t my problem. The majority of those we encounter in this life will remain a part of the broader background of fallen humanity. Significant they are while we share space with them, and worthy of tearful prayers for redemption, but we know to let God decide something He didn’t put into our hands.

Repentance is required for redemption, and repentance itself is a divine miracle. We have to prepare our minds to understand that most will pass in and out of our lives with neither repentance nor redemption. Further, we know that a great many folks we encounter are somewhere between initial repentance and a deeper understanding of heart-led submission to the Spirit, such that they may need repentance from of lot of things still keeping them tied to Satan’s schemes. These people merit a special effort, because we are obliged to presume they are family already, but still struggling to find their place and not at peace. Such are we all in one way or another.

We humbly ask others to pray for us as we confront the demons in our own lives. Those demons have found a bit of home ground in us on issues that we haven’t conquered. This is where we get the higher meaning behind Deuteronomy 7:22-23, as Paul noted 1 Corinthians 10, particularly verse 11. The Conquest stands as a parable of how God works in our lives to drive out demonic forces. We don’t conquer the external world, but conquer our own human existence and occupy it for God’s glory.

But there is another tactic in this war against sin.

First we need to refresh in our minds that this is a time of tribulation, a time of God’s wrath falling heavily upon this world. In such times as these, we are intensely aware of what biblical curses mean. The sword of God’s power on this earth is revealed in His Law Covenants as blessings and curses, two edges of that same sword (Hebrews 4:12; Genesis 3:24). We emphasize blessings a lot, but the same event that blesses His children can be a curse on those who reject His revelation. We can talk about the difference between curses and blessings, but in many ways, it’s all one thing.

Indeed, there is a sense in which pronouncing a curse can result in a blessing, particularly if the sorrow from the curse brings repentance. We must never fail to understand that the ultimate goal of the Law of God is repentance, leading to redemption. This means that the curses and blessings attached to biblical law all have the same redemptive end.

This is where I insert the comment about how there are several Hebrew words translated as “curse” in the Bible. We aren’t talking here about the spiteful condemnation that belittles someone. That kind of curse is what we see in Exodus 22:28, a command that you not “curse” a ruling official or king over you. It’s paralleled with the command that you not “revile” God, because it’s all the same kind of mistake. The point is that you render due respect to roles of authority, even if you find the person in that role despicable as an individual. This is not the kind of curse we are referring to here.

When we talk about a lawful curse, we mean calling someone’s attention to their evil. There is a critical element here in testifying to God’s Word. How can they repent if they have not heard? You have been sent to make them hear, so testify faithfully of God’s revelation. At some point in your dealings with your fellow humans, they will give evidence your heart can discern that they are hardened in some particular grievous moral error. They need to know about it. There might be any number of ways you can tell them, but uttering a curse is one of those ways.

You’ll have to let your heart tell you when you are up against the wall of someone’s hardened sin. I can’t offer you a memorized formula for this; we each have to come up with our own rituals for expressing divine truth. However, I can tell you that I would try to find a way to say something along these lines:

May God curse everything you do, may demons infest every corner of your existence, until you repent or die.

And then you pray that what you said comes true, because you would have been praying about this kind of thing, if not this specific confrontation, for a long time already. You would be standing on firm moral ground and genuinely expect that troubles and sorrows would sprout and bear fruit aplenty in their personal existence. That’s the kind of thing we saw in the Ten Plagues on Egypt, where God shattered Pharaoh’s confidence in everything he thought he knew. In many cases, you will be dealing with someone who has a human legal authority to afflict you, trying to compel you to conform to something you know is sin, so you are looking for God to let that fool know who is God.

And it ain’t you. It has to be done with confidence and humility. You have to make sure the ground is plowed and watered with your carefully considered, heart-led response to everything involved before you come to that point. The same seed of obedience will bring forth a harvest of blessing and curse, and the difference is in the soul of the person who walks into that field.

By the way: It’s protocol to keep your distance from someone you’ve cursed on the grounds that you have full faith it’s going to happen and you don’t want to be close enough for the destruction to fall on you, too.

Why Noah’s Law?

It’s a matter of faith: We stand ready to die for the name of Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer just me living in this fleshly body, but Christ lives in me, too. Now the life I live in this fleshly body is a life of faithful service to the Son of God, who willingly sacrificed His life for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Does that mean anything to you? We were told to take up our own crosses (Matthew 16:24-26). While it has turned out to be literal at times for some, it is symbolic of a life purchased at great cost, wholly owed to the Son of God.

Many Americans, Christians in particular, struggle with the where to draw the line between parable and literal meaning. I use the term “Two Realms” to point out a teaching that is greatly needed in postmodern Western Christian thinking, because mainstream Christian religion confuses parable and literal teaching. Thus, most mainstream Christians tend to take parables literally, and dismiss as parable what Scripture meant literally. They pull Christ down to an earthly regime, and push biblical law off into “a spiritual thing.”

This is a major struggle for people trying to recover a genuine biblical view of this world. If you show up at our parish, you may stumble over that issue. You may find yourself frequently missing the point on things because of that long history of improperly mixing the Two Realms. We owe that to the Judaizers. They succeeded in subverting the mystical approach in the organized church hierarchy by the end of the First Century.

Jesus spoke of mystical truths, but then taught people how to use that mystical approach to understand the Law of Moses. The Torah is a mystical document; all the specific concrete requirements represent a much higher mystical truth. The Jews had forgotten that. By mixing Hellenized logic into their ancient Hebrew Law, they became legalistic and pushed mysticism off to the side. Mysticism was there, but not taken seriously as the primary proper approach to understanding the Scripture. So Jesus had a running battle with Jewish leadership about how to read Moses. He taught Moses, as Moses was intended, against their “traditions of the elders” (eventually formalized in the Talmud). Jesus was restoring the ancient Hebrew faith.

As the gospel spread across the Mediterranean Basin, it first went among Jewish communities planted all over the place. We call that “the Diaspora” — Jews living in a Gentile world outside their own kingdom. There were plenty of Gentiles attracted to the Jewish religion, but when they heard the gospel correcting it, they embraced it quickly. And while plenty of Jews also embraced the gospel, there was a natural tension in the whole process. Jews still suffered from that legalistic instinct, so the Apostles had to find a way to put out the fires of conflict.

In Acts 15 they made it clear that one did not have to become a Jew first to become a Christian. On the one hand, if Jews wanted to follow Christ, they could drop the Talmudic stuff and stick with the mystical truth. If they embraced Moses as Jesus taught him, then it meant no legalism and life was much simpler. Jesus pointed out how certain provisions of Mosaic Law weren’t even applicable outside of the more ancient historical context. With the sacrifice on the Cross, whole swathes of ritual were gone. What remained was the core of ancient Hebrew moral values.

Gentiles had their own brand of mystical law covenant: Noah. The list of prescriptions in Acts 15 was an echo of that more ancient law. The Apostles left out those parts of Noah that were covered under Roman Law and focused on what was left, the parts that were demanding enough on Gentiles from a broad range of pagan backgrounds. And for a deeper understanding, there was an expectation that churches would generally study the Old Testament Scripture to provide an expansive explanation of what Noah meant. Moses was a more explicit and particular application of Noah. The promised blessings and warned curses of Moses were inherent in Noah.

For Jewish Christians it was, “Christ in your hearts, Moses in your hands.” For Gentile Christians it was, “Christ in your hearts, Noah in your hands.” You could lie about having Christ in your heart, but you couldn’t easily lie about what you did with your conduct and your habits of life before the church. Your fellow church members knew to treat you as a fellow Christian because you had the good sense to walk and talk according to a mystical law covenant as applicable.

You have to understand that mysticism from those ancient times was not “mysticism” as commonly understood today, particularly in the West. That business of heart-led wisdom was well understood and widely discussed in literature going back into pre-history. It was their normal intellectual climate, an assumption taken for granted. It’s utterly foreign to us; we have to learn it from them. We have to learn how normative the heart-led mode of life is, and how it works when examining our own conduct, as well as that of the folks who share our household of faith. Thus, we are not legalistic, but strive to discern the heart of the matter — by taking that “heart” business rather literally.

For us, that call to crucify the flesh is a matter of keeping the intellect subjected to the heart-mind. Not just in those “spiritual” moments, but all day long. That way those spiritual moments aren’t just a matter of ritual, but they strike us with the power of God whatever it is we do. We place the initiative to act and respond to all external events within the heart. We test each moment by our convictions.

Because we need some kind of structure for the mind to obey the heart, we refer to the Law of Noah. If you prefer a Jewish approach, then it’s Moses — but it’s Moses as taught by Jesus, not by the Talmud. That phrase, “under grace, not under the law” refers to the Talmud as “the law,” a burdensome legalistic pile of nonsense. Jesus cut through all of that (Matthew 22:34-40). The difference between Noah and Moses turns out to be no more than a matter of ritual behavior.

Kosher was no longer law but a matter of personal preference, as Peter learned in his vision of the sheet (Acts 10). Ritual separation from Gentiles was never meant to be an excuse for racist hatred, but a way to call the Gentiles to a higher moral standard. The business of eating with someone had long been a matter of declaring peace, so eating with believing Gentiles was never a sin. Gentiles could not be held to the Law of Moses unless they wanted to become a citizen of Israel. They were held by Noah, instead. While Jews didn’t share in Gentile food (“sharing a table”), they could share their food with Gentiles. They also could associate with Gentiles socially long before the rise of the legalistic perversions of the Law. So Jews in the churches could continue being fussy about food, and even Gentiles should avoid pagan ritual meals, but that arrogant spite about “unclean people” was just plain wrong. What mattered was a circumcised heart.

In our parish today we refer to the Law of Noah, understood in light of the Law of Moses, which in turn is understood through Christ’s teaching, as the visible manifestation of an obedient heart.

Psalm 119: Tau 169-176

The final octet shows us the Path to God’s Favor. We note that the psalmist is wholly confident in his requests because the promise is written into the revelation. Unlike many human rulers, Jehovah doesn’t create hurdles to His attention, but commands that we call upon Him for help obeying His Word.

The first couplet is a parallelism. We cry and supplicate; we long for our petitions to be heard. But notice that this equates moral discernment with rescue from adversity, because one leads to the other.

The second couplet in like manner is also lyrical repetition. Our mouths testify in glowing terms of God and the revelation of His divine moral character. The resounding theme is that His discipline and guidance is the definition of righteousness.

Again, the third couplet bears a parallel construction. We can anticipate joyfully God’s consistent response to our call to protect and deliver us from sin, because we are wholly committed to His revelation as the greatest possible good in this world.

If the Lord should prolong our days on the earth, it is just and right that we make a lot of noise so others will know whom we credit. We want everyone to know that the legacy of His judgment is the highest treasure. The psalmist confesses openly he is no more than a sheep that keeps wandering off into trouble. The Lord is our Good Shepherd who always comes looking for us. We might forget where we are or how to get back where we belong, but His Law is written on our hearts.

The Norm of Miracles

Before anyone starts to ask the questions, the answer is mysticism.

We can wrap our answers in reason, but the fundamental issue remains, “Thus saith the Lord” who made all things and determines how reality works. Further, He has not been silent; there is a massive record of His dealings with humanity. But that record is opaque to the human intellect. It makes sense only when you read it with your heart. Without that heart-mind awareness, reality isn’t supposed to make sense.

Thus, we start with revelation and build out an understanding. Yet we also assert that no two of us will build the same understanding. We deny that there is an objective reality. The expectation that we could produce a consistent answer that fits all of us is just another deception of the fallen human reason. We answer that it’s utterly impossible to agree on everything and therefore a sign of healthy fellowship when there are at least some minor differences. We don’t school each other on the particulars, but encourage each other in the commitment to our convictions and our faith to trust in God.

It’s not that we use no reason at all, but that we use our reason as the means to dragging all the noise around us back to our faith. We submit everything to that mystical union with God Almighty and with the whole of His Creation. Because of that divine clarity of the heart-mind, our reasoning capacity is actually far better, at least potentially, than the sharpest minds of those who rely on reason alone. That doesn’t mean we can break through their moral blindness, but that we need not fear the power of their ideas. Our spiritual truth is greater than their best and brightest logic.

Again: The demands of faith are imminently unreasonable. We make no bones about it. At the same time, we have the all justification in the world we need to take this path because our God reigns and pours out His blessings so abundantly we have to leave stuff lying on the ground. He’s not wasteful, just generous.

It also means that in order to catch as much as we can, we discard a lot of things that He says aren’t necessary. The discernment is not a matter of reason and human need, but His glory. His glory is our ultimate good. There is nothing that can compete with that.

How many miracles does the Bible tell about? How often has God shown that He offers exceptions because there really aren’t any hard-n-fast rules? We know that, under most contexts, you don’t grab a poisonous snake with your bare hands. We also know Jesus promised that, when it serves the Father’s glory, we can do that anyway (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:1-6). It’s not that we would fling a challenge in God’s face and dare Him to let us die in the middle of our calling and mission, but that we simply allow Him to decide such things. We take our own demise in stride.

But when the time comes, we cast out demons, heal broken bodies, call fire down from heaven, walk on water, instantly move great distances without traveling, turn the clock backward in time, fill thousands of bellies from a handful of food, and all kinds of things we can’t even imagine. But we don’t do it casually as if we are somehow so very special and virtuous. It’s not frivolous and we don’t test it out just to prove a point. We receive these things when His glory shines, and we also don’t receive them for His glory at other times.

Learn the Law of God; learn how Creation works. Make Creation your best friend. No two of us will ever know exactly the same things about Creation, but we can all testify that God is not constrained by our human grasp on what’s “normal.”

Glory on the Far Horizon

In our study in Psalm 119, we’ve seen the psalmist use several terms to indicate the revelation of God. One of those words translates as “testimony” — a record of something that actually happened as reported by eye witnesses. If you seek with your heart to see the consistency in the Bible, you’ll find it. Your heart will affirm it for your brain; the brain’s job is working out how to live according to that conviction. A critical element in understanding the Scriptures is precedent: You need to see what God says about various events, to discern His judgment of things. What does this narrative indicate about how God works?

There’s Job. His time was well before Israel, and probably before Abraham. His testimony indicates something about how we know God regardless of the trappings of the Covenant of Moses. Before his calling, Abraham knew of Our Lord by a different name, and was called to leave behind the other deities he knew. That was a tall order, given that Abraham seems to have been a member of the priestly noble class of pagan scholars in the Mesopotamian Valley. It was a scholarship that is buried in myth and legend for us, but it’s clear that Jehovah by another name was never completely forgotten once we were expelled from Eden.

To support that theme is Balaam, the scholar hired from Babylon by Balak to curse Israel during her time passing through on the way to Canaan Land. Balaam knew how to address Jehovah and got very explicit answers of what God intended to do. He also knew enough to teach Balak how to get Israel in trouble with her God. So when Balaam couldn’t curse Israel directly, it was simple matter of incurring God’s wrath on Israel by way of suborning to sin. It worked quite well, we are told. It had to do with an ancient heathen rite that involved an annual offering, wherein the women all offered their bodies for ritual sex. And you thought modern politics was dirty.

Israel was led by Moses on that Exodus and we know that his father-in-law was a high priest who served the same God. Jethro served to restore to Moses a sense of awareness of the Semitic lore of faith and religion, something that seems to have grown dim in the minds of Israel after several generations in Egypt. They got into Egypt because God sent Joseph there to become a prominent figure in Pharaoh’s court. We know that required Joseph to engage in pagan rituals, and that Moses as an adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter was schooled in the same Egyptian background. So Jethro helped to restore Moses to his nomadic Semite heritage, including that peculiar way of knowing God.

Far down the road, we see Daniel thrust into a much later Babylonian imperial court with an obligation to learn another big wad of pagan stuff, including much of what Abraham had known, and a lot more. Babylon was famous for preserving all the ancient literature it could find, and most of that was a matter of copying sacred texts from every temple library they encountered during their imperial expansion. Daniel remained in contact with the Hebrew leadership as they were sometimes under his authority as he served in the imperial bureaucracy. Among all the other stuff he revealed, his chief contribution to the Hebrew heritage was a prophecy of how God intended to do things on a broad scale, and what place Israel served in all of that. He also introduced a very firm concept of the Messiah.

Let’s not forget that God used Paul, steeped as that man was in the Hellenized perversions of Hebrew religion. If there was anyone prepared to help the churches discern the fatal flaw in Judaism, it was the man who had once stood in line to become a senior figure in the Sanhedrin. It was Paul who knew precisely how the Judaizers would work to subvert the churches, though he had plenty of help from the writer of Hebrews. While Paul insisted that Jews had a great advantage in their ancient Hebrew heritage, he also bluntly pointed out their national covenant was dead, thanks to their choice to jettison the core of that ancient heritage. The Jews no longer knew God; they rejected His Son. In effect, Judaism has become a pagan religion, and Paul was an expert on that.

I don’t amount to a callus on the foot of any of those men. The only way I can see anything at all is by standing on their shoulders. There is ample precedent from their lives to show that some of the things I write about do matter, despite the appearance of a secular interest. Take a moment consider: Is not our postmodern secular world just another brand of paganism? I’ve spent my adult life soaked in studying that secularism from different angles. By no means a real expert, I believe I know enough about it to be useful to God. In the midst of this, I have this burning desire to warn you of some dangers that apparently aren’t too obvious.

I don’t see too many other folks warning about the particular dangers I see. And maybe what I see doesn’t apply to you, but it certainly applies to me. It’s not possible to be silent (Ezekiel 33). Jesus in Matthew 24-25 warned His disciples to be aware of cues in the world around them so they’d know when it was God’s timing for them to scatter away from the incubator of faith in Jerusalem and take their message to a wider world. Paul was hardly the only missionary; there were churches planted all the way to modern India, places in Africa, across Central Asia, and into Europe. We really don’t even know all the places they went, but we do know that these former Jews-now-Christians went even farther with the faith itself, never mind starting actual churches.

It’s not for me to decide how this imagery applies to you, dear readers, but it should indicate something. At least for those of you living with me in the US, there’s a lot to watch for as God pulls this world into a new reality. This isn’t about fear any more than was Jesus trying to scare His disciples. It was all about having confidence in how God the Father does things in a world that chooses not to know Him. And just a little bit like Daniel, I have been granted some limited vision of God’s plans regarding that herding of cattle. It means passing through some troubling times, but His glory shines bright on the horizon.

The Humble Shepherd King

It was a high and festive day when King David brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He set up a proper Tent of Meeting in the courtyard. Keep in mind that the city was still rather primitive at that time. The “palace” was still part fortress and not all that large. David had built it up somewhat from the old Jebusite fortress he had captured early in his reign, but it was still rather small. It was a walled enclosure standing on the lower extension of a much larger ridge, but this lower extension had the advantage of steeper sides and was relatively narrow, very easily defended. Even better was the presence of a fresh water spring just below the the crown of this ridge.

Still, his small fortified palace was sumptuous by the standards of his day. And here was the Ark of God’s Presence out in a tent in his courtyard. Surely he could honor his God with better accommodations? God sent a prophet to inform David that this was not the time for such things. At this point a significant portion of David’s kingdom still lived tents. Indeed, his little capital was growing fast, with tents clustered all around, the housing of choice until more permanent structures could be built. This was a nation born of nomads serving a God who owned all Creation. For now, the symbolism of God’s “house” as a tent was appropriate.

David was chosen to establish something more important than mere walls; it was his job to assert the authority and power of God on behalf of Israel. When every nation around them had been subdued and/or turned into supporting allies, it wouldn’t matter what your house was made of. God promised to deliver all of this into David’s hands, but it still required him going to war. That was his job. This divine presence in the form of shalom in its fullest meaning as the one place on earth where mankind could see and know God was far more important than what any mere man could build. There was time enough for the symbolism of a fancy city with a fancy temple later for David’s heir.

It was not lost on David that this meant God intended to establish a dynasty after his name and to favor the whole nation through this arrangement.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord God? Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant. For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name — and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land — before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God.

“Now, O Lord God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.

“And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:18-29)